A visit in service of the big bourgeoisie
Starting from 9 April, PM Modi went on a 9-day tour of France, Germany and Canada. Ever since his government came to power about a year ago, Modi has undertaken a large number of foreign visits. His visits in the neighbourhood (Bhutan, Nepal, Sri Lanka) were designed to show India’s determination to keep close contact with the neighbours at a time when these countries have been seeking to build their relations with other powers outside South Asia, especially China. His tour of the Indian Ocean region (Mauritius, Seychelles and also Sri Lanka) aimed at projecting the Indian state’s power and presence in this highly strategic and increasingly contentious region. But apart from these, his bilateral visits to the major capitalist countries of the world (the US, Japan, Australia, and now France, Germany and Canada) have been designed to show Modi as a “strong” leader of a “growing” economy with whom these countries can do business. Moreover, these countries are in possession of advanced technologies and military/nuclear power which the Indian state wants to acquire to boost its own power.
In France, Modi bypassed standard norms for purchasing military hardware in clinching a deal for 36 “ready to fly” French-made Rafale fighter aircraft at an estimated cost of $7.5 billion. The purchase of these aircraft was delinked from a much larger deal being negotiated with Rafale over several years to produce the same aircraft in India. It was made very clear that this outright purchase of fighter jets was intended to face the challenge posed particularly by China’s growing military power. Modi also visited the headquarters of the aviation corporation Airbus, where it was announced that Airbus would raise its investment in India to 2 billion euros. Apart from this, an agreement was also signed to take forward the work on the Jaitapur atomic power plant in Maharashtra, in spite of the stiff opposition that people in that area and a number of other organisations and activists in India have been putting up against the plant. It is significant that when the BJP was in opposition, it too had opposed the Jaitapur plant. France also signed an agreement on space cooperation, and pledged to help develop 3 “smart cities” in India, as well as upgrade the Delhi-Chandigarh high speed rail link.
In Germany, the BJP government’s pet theme of “Make in India” was flagged with full force. The emphasis during this visit was even more on getting significant German investment in India. Modi agreed to set up a special mechanism for speedy clearance of German projects in India. He inaugurated along with German Chancellor Merkel the Hanover Industrial Fair which had a special focus on India this year.
In the visit to Canada, one of the main outcomes was the $280 million deal with the giant corporation CAMECO to supply uranium for Indian nuclear reactors for five years. Apart from this, agreements were signed in the fields of energy, aviation and rail transport, cyber security, and also in the area of “skill development”.
Opposition from Indians abroad
Canada is home to a long-established Indian community with strong patriotic and progressive sentiments, who have never failed to voice their opposition to the reactionary and anti-people policies of various Indian governments. This is possibly one reason that no Indian Prime Minister has visited Canada in 42 years.
More than most of his predecessors, Modi has tried to show that he has strong support and adulation from the Indians who are settled in so many countries around the globe. Much-hyped and carefully-orchestrated mass meetings with Indians have been held in stadiums and other public venues in these countries which he has visited, to enable Modi to deliver fiery speeches extolling his government’s pet projects and to project him as a larger-than-life leader. The same was done throughout this tour as well. However in Canada, Indians organized to oppose Modi and his visit. Demonstrations were organized both in Ottawa and in Toronto by Sikhs for Justice (SFJ), who denounced Modi for masterminding genocide against people of the Muslim faith during the Gujarat massacre of 2002. The protests organized by the coalition “Communities United Against Narendra Modi” highlighted not only his despicable record in the Gujarat massacre, but also his government’s repression in Kashmir and against tribal people, and its anti-people activities on the front of land acquisition, etc. A wall of silence was built up around this people’s opposition to Modi by the Indian and foreign media which otherwise went out of its way to highlight the views of those who spouted praise of Modi. It was no wonder that in Vancouver, home to many progressive and patriotic Indians, the audience for Modi’s public meetings were strictly controlled and security was extremely tight.
The visit of PM Modi to France, Germany and Canada shows the determination of the Indian big bourgeoisie to go all out to woo foreign investment, and secure the energy resources and military power it wants to strengthen itself and take what it views as its ‘rightful’ place as one of the major powers in the world. To do this, it is willing to dilute or bypass its own laws and norms and to sell out the country’s resources and manpower at an ever faster rate. Modi’s publicists have made a big show about how India is now going to these advanced capitalist countries not with ‘a begging bowl’ but as an ‘equal partner’. However, the real truth of the matter is that this strategy, while serving the interests of the ruling bourgeoisie, only spells more dangers and insecurity for the Indian working class and people.